Blue Devils can’t hold on against Madison County

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By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

With 1:57 remaining in Friday’s game, it seemed all the air inside Jim Glover Field was sucked away when the referees called Juan Rios’ 35-yard field goal attempt wide right.

From the spectators’ standpoint, the kick looked good, missing only by inches.

The downside was that the miss gave Madison County a 17-14 victory in the Class 5A, Region 7 game. The loss put Etowah (5-4, 5-2) on the road to Mortimer Jordan in the first round of the state playoffs, with the Tigers (6-3, 6-1) earning home-field advantage.

“We’ve got to finish games,” Blue Devils coach Drew Noles said. “We’ve got to find ways to score when needed and got to find ways to hold opponents. We’ve got to find ways to win close games.”

Three of Etowah’s four losses this season were by a combined six points.

Early on, things appeared to be in favor of the Blue Devils, who scored on the first drive of the game. With 9:13 to go in the first quarter, Paul Ruiz scored on a 1-yard dive play.

Late in the first quarter, the Tigers appeared to score on a 27-yard run by Alfonso Provens. However, the play was called back on a holding call. 

Seven plays later, on the fourth play of the second frame, Madison County settled for a 27-yard Brock Mitchell field goal.

Etowah extended its lead to 14-3 on a 44-yard pass to Caleb Horton about midway through the second quarter. That score held until halftime, as Mitchell missed a 31-yard field goal attempt with 2:29 left in the half.

It was the third quarter when the Tigers got on track. They took the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field, only to come up short and miss a 48-yard field goal try.

Two big plays put Madison County ahead by the final margin, however.

With 1:24 left in the third quarter, Gabriel Ozio scored from 46 yards out. After forcing an Etowah three-and-out, Tigers quarterback Tyler Gurley scored on a 2-yard run one play after a 39-yard rush by Provens.

It appeared the Tigers scored again on their next possession, but another holding penalty brought back a 17-yard scoring pass to Marquise Irvin. Two plays later, Madison County was forced to punt.

The almost heroics at the end came courtesy of a fumble by Gurley that Etowah’s Oman Smothers covered, giving the Blue Devils the opportunity to win or tie with only a 29-yard field to cover.

“We didn’t make the plays late in the game,” Noles said. “But we left it on the line. That was two very good high school football teams battling it out.”

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